Processing and modification routes to produce and to improve properties of biodegradable plastics from soy isolate were studied. Soy isolate, acid-treated and crosslinked soy were subsequently compounded, extruded, and injection molded. Acetic acid and glyoxal were examined concerning their suitability for acid treating and crosslinking of soy, and their effect on the final properties of the obtained materials. Heat treatment was also used as a possible methodology to crosslink the protein structure. The molded specimens were tested in terms of their tensile properties and solubility at different pHs, and were also evaluated for the degree of crosslinking and molecular weight distributions. The obtained plastics were rigid and brittle with stiffness ranging from 1436 MPa for soy, to 1229 MPa for glyoxal crosslinked soy, up to 2698 MPa for heat-treated soy. The differences in stiffness were discussed in terms of the crosslinking efficiency and spatial distribution. The solubility profiles were studied as a function of the pH of the immersion solutions and the crosslinking degree of each material. A reduction in protein solubility with decreasing pH was observed, with a minimum between pH 4 and 5 and a resolubilization of the protein at pHs lower than pH 4 and greater than 8. Higher levels of crosslinking resulted in a decrease of the solubility and an aggregation of the protein molecules. The soy plastics proved to be very versatile materials with potential to be used in applications where quite demanding performances are expected, such as in the biomedical field.
- protein plastics